Oracle Schools now has a foundation to help out in hard financial times
By Staff | Posted July 21st, 2015
The Oracle School District (OSD) may be small, but their dreams are big. With 2014’s override renewal funding and additional efficiencies instituted by administration, the District has begun to realize some of these dreams. This year, they were able to hire a music teacher and a school counselor. Additional academic tools, the arts, and facility upgrades continue to be unmet needs.

Funding increases though, are hard to come by these days. That is why a few concerned citizens decided to start a foundation to help fill in the gap. Their efforts resulted in the Oracle Schools Foundation’s (OSF) recent approval as a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization by the IRS. The OSF’s vision is to be a beacon of excellence in public education and the mission is to provide financial and related support to ensure that every Oracle student has unlimited opportunity to succeed.

The foundation is headed by President Edwin Hartman, a retired professor and Oracle resident. He is joined by three retired SaddleBrooke residents: Vice-President, Alan Levenson, (lawyer); Secretary Maria Menconi, (school superintendent); and Treasurer Richard Borland (banker.) Two additional board members are both Oracle residents: the OSD Superintendent Dennis Blauser and Andrea Jennings, a District parent. OSD Governing Board member Linda Lyon (retired USAF Colonel) is on the foundation board as a non-voting member.

Foundation board members have scheduled a foundation charity gala for Nov. 14 at The Vista at SaddleBrooke One and have been the first to step forward with donations totaling almost $3,000. Half of this funding came from Alan and Betsy Levenson for creation of the Levenson Reach Scholarship. This first year’s recipient, sixth grader Natalye Pinedo will attend the Sally Ride Science Camp at UC San Diego this summer. Providing opportunities like these to very deserving students like Natalie is indicative of the type of life-changing experiences the foundation hopes to facilitate.

Donations to the Oracle Schools Foundation are tax deductible, but totally separate from Arizona’s tax credit program. Under the state’s tax credit program, individuals are allowed to donate $200 to any public school district and reduce their state tax bill by that same amount. Donations to the OSF reduce a taxpayer’s tax liability on Federal taxes and may be made in addition to making a tax credit contribution.

Interested in helping? The foundation website address is www.OracleSchoolsFoundation.com and its Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/OracleSchoolsFoundation. You can also email the foundation at info@oracleschoolsfoundation.com. Opportunities to give on-line will be available in the future, but for now you can send a check to P.O. Box 5454, Oracle, AZ 85623. We may not be able to change the world, but together, we can make a real difference for our local children.
Oracle School District 
New foundation formed to help students

The Oracle School District (OSD) may be small, but our dreams are big. With 2014’s override renewal funding and additional efficiencies instituted by administration, our District has begun to realize some of these dreams. This year, we were able to hire a music teacher and a school counselor. Additional academic tools, the arts, and facility upgrades continue to be unmet needs.

Funding increases though, are hard to come by these days. That is why a few concerned citizens decided to start a foundation to help fill in the gap. Their efforts resulted in the Oracle Schools Foundation’s (OSF) recent approval as a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization by the IRS. The OSF’s vision is to be a beacon of excellence in public education and the mission is to provide financial and related support to ensure that every Oracle student has unlimited opportunity to succeed.  

The foundation is headed by President Edwin Hartman, a retired professor and Oracle resident. He is joined by three retired SaddleBrooke residents: Vice-President, Alan Levenson, (lawyer); Secretary Maria Menconi, (school superintendent); and Treasurer Richard Borland (banker.) Two additional board members are both Oracle residents: the OSD Superintendent Dennis Blauser and Andrea Jennings, a District parent. OSD Governing Board member Linda Lyon (retired USAF Colonel) is on the foundation board as a non-voting member.

Foundation board members have scheduled a foundation charity gala for November 17 at The Vista at SaddleBrooke One and have been the first to step forward with donations totaling almost $3K. Half of this funding came from Alan and Betsy Levenson for creation of the Levenson Reach Scholarship. This first year’s recipient, 6th grader Natalye Pinedo will attend the Sally Ride Science Camp at UC San Diego this summer. Providing opportunities like these to very deserving students like Natalie is indicative of the type of life-changing experiences the foundation hopes to facilitate.

Donations to the Oracle Schools Foundation are tax deductible, but totally separate from Arizona’s tax credit program. Under the state’s tax credit program, individuals are allowed to donate $200 to any public school district and reduce their state tax bill by that same amount. Donations to the OSF reduce a taxpayer’s tax liability on Federal taxes and may be made in addition to making a tax credit contribution. 

Interested in helping? The foundation website address is www.OracleSchoolsFoundation.com and its Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/OracleSchoolsFoundation. You can also email the foundation at info@oracleschoolsfoundation.com. Opportunities to give on-line will be available in the future, but for now you can send a check to P.O. Box 5454, Oracle, AZ 85623. We may not be able to change the world, but together, we can make a real difference for our local children.
By Linda Lyon | Printed July 5th, 2015
By Staff | Posted July 15, 2015
Oracle School District

The Oracle School District (OSD) may be small but our dreams are big. With 2014’s override renewal funding and additional efficiencies instituted by administration, our District has begun to realize some of these dreams. This year we were able to hire a music teacher and a school counselor. Additional academic tools, the arts and facility upgrades continue to be unmet needs.

Funding increases, though, are hard to come by these days. That is why a few concerned citizens decided to start a foundation to help fill in the gap. Their efforts resulted in the Oracle Schools Foundation’s (OSF) recent approval as a 501(c) (3) tax exempt organization by the IRS. The OSF’s vision is to be a beacon of excellence in public education and the mission is to provide financial and related support to ensure that every Oracle student has unlimited opportunity to succeed.

The foundation is headed by President Edwin Hartman, a retired professor and Oracle resident. He is joined by three retired SaddleBrooke residents: Vice-President Alan Levenson (lawyer), Secretary Maria Menconi (school superintendent) and Treasurer Richard Borland (banker). Two additional board members are both Oracle residents: the OSD Superintendent Dennis Blauser and Andrea Jennings, a district parent. OSD Governing Board member Linda Lyon (retired USAF Colonel) is on the foundation board as a non-voting member.

Foundation board members have scheduled a foundation charity gala for November 17 at The Vista at SaddleBrooke One and have been the first to step forward with donations totaling almost $3,000. Half of this funding came from Alan and Betsy Levenson for creation of the Levenson Reach Scholarship. This first year’s recipient, sixth grader Natalye Pinedo, will attend the Sally Ride Science Camp at UC San Diego this summer. Providing opportunities like these to very deserving students like Natalie is indicative of the type of life-changing experiences the foundation hopes to facilitate.

Donations to the Oracle Schools Foundation are tax deductible, but totally separate from Arizona’s tax credit program. Under the state’s tax credit program, individuals are allowed to donate $200 to any public school district and reduce their state tax bill by that same amount. Donations to the OSF reduce a taxpayer’s tax liability on Federal taxes and may be made in addition to making a tax credit contribution.

Interested in helping? The foundation website address is www.OracleSchoolsFoundation.com and its Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/OracleSchoolsFoundation. You can also email the foundation at info@oracleschoolsfoundation.com. Opportunities to give online will be available in the future, but for now you can send a check to P.O. Box 5454, Oracle, Arizona 85623. We may not be able to change the world, but together we can make a real difference for our local children.
P.O. Box 8863, Tucson, AZ 85738
520.896-3070
By Staff | Posted May 25, 2016
Oracle Schools Foundation Makes Its Own “Opportunity”

By Betsy Levenson, Foundation Board Member and Strategic Planning Facilitator

  Beloved comedian Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” And that is exactly what the newly formed Oracle Schools Foundation has done!

  Determined not to be discouraged by Arizona’s 49th out of 50th rank in funding for public education, a group of SaddleBrooke and Oracle residents have come together with Oracle School District parents, teachers and administrators and taken action. Under the banner of the newly formed Oracle Schools Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible organization, members recently embarked on a strategic planning process aimed at helping the Foundation make a significant and measurable difference in the Oracle School District.

  Mindful of Yogi Berra’s wise warning: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else”, Foundation members worked together to build clarity and unanimity about our mission: “To provide financial and related support to ensure that every Oracle student has unlimited opportunity to succeed”; our vision: “To be a beacon of excellence in public education”; and a limited number of areas of focus that were realistic and achievable in terms of the District’s priority needs. 

  After what seemed like endless hours spent analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and external trends, members zeroed in on the broad goal areas that will constitute our three-year work plan:

• Build a more sustainable and long-term Foundation structure;

• Provide continuous financial support for early childhood literacy education; and

• Engage the broader community in the mission of the Foundation.

  In conclusion, you may ask, “Why early childhood literacy as the sole beneficiary of our financial support?” With all the pressing needs out there, what made Foundation Board members focus on that one small slice of the pie? The answer, for us, became very clear. If we truly intend to be a “beacon of excellence in public education”, then we must do something about the huge number of District children who do not attend pre-school because their families cannot afford it. Pre-school, in our view, is where it all begins… so that’s where we decided we had to begin. The fact is that in less than a year of operation, the Foundation has already netted $20,000 and has earmarked most of that to enroll twelve “scholarship youngsters” for this fall’s Kindergarten Prep pre-school program. 

  This is a great start, but we’ve only just begun. Want to be a part of this meaningful journey? Learn more on our website: OracleSchoolsFoundation.com

  While you’re on the website, you can make a donation, as well as sign up for our email list. You can also follow us on Facebook. Ready to have a front row seat on this journey? Join us now as a “Champion of the Oracle Schools Foundation”. To find out how, send an email to: info@OracleSchoolsFoundation

  We welcome your involvement in this very important effort!
New preschool scholarships provide more opportunities for early childhood education











As part of this aggressive emphasis on early childhood education, the Oracle School District has completed several upgrades to their preschool program which is called Mountain Vista Kindergarten Prep. Two years ago the building that houses the preschool program was completely renovated including the installation of a new secured playground complete with a paved tricycle track. Along with upgrading the physical learning environment, the District implemented a new rigorous, yet fun, curriculum that academically and socially helps prepare students for kindergarten. This exciting curriculum, paired with excellent staff development, will help close the learning gap that many disadvantaged students struggle to overcome throughout their lives.

To ensure that parents know about the preschool program the district held a western style Preschool Roundup. This well-attended event included registration, scholarship information and many activities that helped the early childhood education staff assess incoming students’ school readiness level. Because of the Roundup, 15 new three and four year old future scholars were signed up for preschool! In addition to Governing Board members Steve Brown and Linda Lyon, special guest of honor Dianne Ashby was in attendance. As a lifelong educator and former Dean of the Illinois State College of Education, Ms. Ashby understands the importance of children being put on an early path to success. A SaddleBrooke resident, Ms. Ashby has been an ardent supporter and major contributor to the Oracle Schools Foundation and is a true champion of public education.

For more information about the District, you can check out our website at www.OSD2.org. If you would like to learn how to join in the Foundation’s efforts, please go to www.OracleSchoolsFoundation.com.
By Dennis Blauser | Posted July 15, 2016
Children’s author visits Mountain Vista School

On March 9, the students and teachers of the Mountain Vista School in Oracle had a special treat sponsored by the Oracle Schools Foundation. Published author and motivational speaker, Dr. Suzanne Doherty, spent the day reading to students, answering their questions and speaking with faculty in the afternoon about the joy and importance of writing. Dr. Doherty’s latest book, Adeline and Edward-Be A Friend was the focus of the day’s events. The book, which was published last year, is available in several languages including: English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Thai. The editions in other languages are translated so that the story appears in English and the selected language. Teachers at Mountain Vista all received a copy of the English/Spanish version as a gift from the Foundation.

Dr. Doherty firmly believes that the love of reading should start at a very young age. Family and extended family members are a child’s first and most effective teachers. Her 40 years as an educator and school system Superintendent have resulted in a passion for reading education. She believes that modeling good reading habits at home instills a life-long appreciation of the written word. The Adeline and Edward book series is a great resource for discussion, developing positive attitudes and behaviors and contributing to a child’s academic development. Dr. Doherty has traveled to schools both in the United States and in other countries, reading to students and helping teachers promote writing skills.

The students had the opportunity to hear the story read by the author and to ask questions about writing and how to write their own stories. The afternoon session with teachers focused on motivating children to write and techniques to spark their enthusiasm and improve their skills. Dr. Doherty thoroughly enjoyed her visit to the school and was delighted by the warm and enthusiastic reception she received.
By Staff | Posted July 15, 2015
Thanks to the Oracle Schools Foundation founded in 2015, the Oracle School District is now able to provide the opportunity for more children to attend preschool. Last year the Foundation raised over $15,000 with its first fundraiser, the Toast to Teachers Gala. As a result the Foundation Board elected to fully fund 10 needs-based preschool scholarships for the 2016/2017 school year. This year the Foundation requested and was granted $3,000 from the SaddleBag Notes Board, bringing the total number of full preschool scholarships provided by the Foundation to 12. Long term, the Foundation and the District are committed to continuing to raise funds to make early childhood education more accessible to all children in the district. Since preschool is not funded in Arizona, schools must charge tuition for it putting this vital jumpstart to education out of reach for those very students who need it most.
SaddleBrooke takes the preschool funding crisis into their own hands
Alexis Huicochea Nov 7, 2016 
Preschoolers in a community north of Tucson have found an unlikely ally in a group of SaddleBrooke retirees on the quest for affordable, quality early education.

Thanks to the Oracle Schools Foundation, more than a dozen 3 and 4 year olds in the Oracle School District have been able to attend preschool free of charge this school year.

The feat was made possible through the creation of a non-profit organization in May 2015 to support preschool scholarships for children who will eventually attend Mountain Vista School in the community of Oracle.

More than 60 percent of students in the Oracle School District qualify for free or reduced lunch, an indicator of poverty.

Understanding the benefits of early-childhood education and the fact that the quality programming is often out of reach for families in poverty, Linda Lyon, who also serves on the school district’s governing board, set out to close that gap.

“I’m a huge public education advocate, I’m also a school board member and I’m the treasurer for the Arizona School Boards Association, and I’ve learned a lot over the last few years about what’s important in education," Lyon said. "Of course everything is important, but what can have the biggest impact is a good start and so that’s why we decided to focus on preschool.”

The foundation has worked to get the word out about their cause through e-mail communications, HOA newsletters, and community publications. They collect individual donations and also host an annual gala that supports the majority of the 16 scholarships that have been awarded to families to cover the annual $1,500 preschool tuition. 

While it may be surprising to some that a community made up largely of retirees would be willing to support education, Betsy Levenson, a foundation volunteer feels that has to do with the model it has adopted — one that assists children without raising taxes.

Added Lyon: "Most people realize if we want a good quality of life as we go into our senior years, besides it being the right thing to do, these kids are going to be the ones leading things. They are going to be our lawmakers, our firemen, our policemen, our teachers, and we need them to be able to do that well.

“It’s both a moral imperative and a practical one.”

How can we do this too?
Step 1: Decide up front what the goals of your foundation will be and get people on board who are committed to the cause.

Step 2: Establish a tax-exempt foundation — appealing to supporters because donations are then tax deductible. Register with the Arizona Corporation Commission as a non profit and then file for tax-exempt status through the IRS. The process was not too lengthy or overly complicated, Lyon said.

Pro tip: Some school districts already have foundations supporting them, make sure they aren’t already doing this work before starting a foundation of your own. If they are, find out how you can support the work.


  The Oracle Schools Foundation Gala 2016, held on Nov. 5 at SaddleBrooke’s HOA # 1 The Vistas, was a huge success, raising over $19,000 for the Foundation and the students it serves. Close to 160 people and businesses supported this year’s “Read to Succeed” event, which began with a performance by Mt. Vista Elementary School orchestra, led by music teacher Kaitlyn Miller. Several family members of the students were also on hand to listen to the wonderful performance. District Superintendent Dennis Blauser welcomed everyone and served as emcee extraordinaire to usher us through the evening.

  Christine Marsh, Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, was the keynote speaker. She acknowledged that as an 11th and 12th grade advanced placement English Language Arts teacher at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, she is very privileged. She doesn’t have to contend with many of the resource deficiencies and teaching challenges that many other Arizona teachers do. She talked about how children from higher socio-economic status families, will have heard as many as 30 million more words by the time they enter kindergarten as those from less fortunate families. This dearth of language experience can put our youngest learners at severe disadvantage before they even start school. She lauded those in attendance at the Gala for their contributions to help bridge the gap to give District students more opportunity to achieve their dreams.

  Alan Levenson, the Foundation’s Vice-President spoke about the Champion Program which is designed to provide sustainable support to achieve the Foundation’s vision: “ To be a beacon of excellence in public education.” With almost 200 Champions for 2017, the program is off to a great start. He asked the attendees to engage their friends and neighbor because “if we are to continue to have great impact, we must have great support.”

  Dianne Ashby, a Doctorate-level Champion of the Foundation, likewise encouraged attendees to consider sponsoring a preschool scholarship for the 2017-18 school year. Studies have shown that preschool is critical and can provide a payback as high as $7 for every $1 spent, especially for children from lower socio-economic families. Arizona only funds half-day Kindergarten and provides no funding for preschool. This means the District must charge $1,500 tuition for preschool and some families’ budgets just can’t cover this cost. The Foundation awarded 16 scholarships for the 2016-17 school year and would like to find even more families who need help in sending their children to preschool next year.

  The live auction saw bidders “battle” for some wonderful auction items and their generosity, combined with all those who sponsored, bought tickets or donated, was absolutely incredible and a real testament to the commitment all the communities of the District have to providing a quality education to our children. Foundation President Ed Hartman, an Oracle resident, closed out the evening, telling everyone, “there is more work to be done – by us, by you, and by the children themselves and their parents too” but said he is optimistic because of the incredible support he has seen from all the District’s communities. For more information on preschool scholarships, or the Oracle Schools Foundation please go to www.OracleSchoolsFoundation.com.
By Staff | Posted November 17th, 2015
Oracle Schools Foundation Gala raises $19K
by Linda Lyon | December 15, 2016

The Oracle Schools Foundation Gala 2016 held on November 5 at SaddleBrooke’s HOA 1, The Vistas, was a huge success raising almost $19,000 for the Foundation and the students it serves. Close to 160 people and businesses supported this year’s Read to Succeed event which began with a great performance by Mt. Vista Elementary School orchestra, led by music teacher Kaitlyn Miller.

Christine Marsh, Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, was the keynote speaker. She acknowledged that as an eleventh and twelfth grade advanced placement English Language Arts teacher at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, she is very privileged. She doesn’t have to contend with many of the resource deficiencies and teaching challenges that many other Arizona teachers do. She talked about how children from higher socio-economic status families will have heard as many as 30 million more words by the time they enter kindergarten as those from poorer families. This dearth of language experience puts our youngest learners at a severe disadvantage before they even start school. She lauded those in attendance at the Gala for their contributions to help bridge the gap to give District students a fighting chance to achieve their dreams.

Alan Levenson, the Foundation’s vice-president, then spoke about the Champion Program which is designed to provide sustainable support to achieve the Foundation’s vision: “To be a beacon of excellence in public education.” With almost 200 Champions for 2017, the program is off to a great start. He asked the attendees to engage their friends and neighbors because, “If we are to continue to have great impact, we must have great support.”

Dianne Ashby, a Doctorate-level Champion of the Foundation, likewise encouraged attendees to consider sponsoring a preschool scholarship for the 2017-18 school year. Studies have shown that preschool is critical and can provide a payback as high as $7 for every $1 spent, especially for children from lower socio-economic families. Arizona only funds half-day Kindergarten and provides no funding for preschool. In that 62 percent of the District’s students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program, some families’ budgets just don’t have room for the $1,500 tuition the District must charge. The Foundation awarded 16 such scholarships for this school year and hopes to encourage even more students to the District’s Kindergarten Prep preschool next year.

The liveliest portion of the event was the auction led by Tim Koch. He had some wonderful auction items to work with such as a gorgeous handmade quilt and a one-week stay in a house in Pinetop. Tim’s animated, engaging style made for great fun and produced almost $5,500 in profit for the Foundation. The generosity of auction bidders, combined with those who sponsored, bought tickets or donated, was absolutely incredible and a real testament to the commitment the communities of the District have to providing a quality education to our children. For more information, please go to www.OracleSchoolsFoundation.com.